On March 21st, the channel SyFy debuted a new their new show Cosplay Melee. Social media had been abuzz with opinions, theories and hype for the show for at least 2-3 weeks prior, where people speculated about what it might mean for the cosplay community as a whole. Some thought that it would be another Heroes of Cosplay style show, where a group of cosplayers traveled across the US to compete at various conventions masquerades – and while that theory was quickly negated by contestants of the show, it left many wondering what would be happening. With the help of the production company for the hit SyFy series Face/Off, many hoped that it might show more of the crafting, versus the “drama” or competition side of cosplay that many have come to associate with the hobby.
In the first episode, the four contestants were given a base challenge to start with, where one of them would be eliminated. The elimination challenge for the first episode (which had the theme “Space Opera”) was to create a helm, which would then serve as part of his/her later costume. Each contestant chose a different series or universe to draw from – Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Trek, Star Wars and Chronicles of Riddick. The four contestants had only 6 hours to craft their helms and prepare to present them to the judges. While all four chose very different materials, watching their techniques and methods was fascinating, as well as a learning experience.
As a cosplayer and costume contest judge myself, I cast a critical eye over the work of the four contestants when they presented their helms to the judges. Given that they had been given such a short time, I was impressed with what each of them had been able to craft. That being said, I felt that a couple of the helms did not really seem up to par compared to prior work that had been featured. While the crafting level and paint on the Chronicles of Riddick helm piece that Alicia crafted looked as if it was from a movie wardrobe, it was smaller, and seemed lacking when displayed with the head covering helms brought out by the other three. The attachments were also string, which while it wouldn’t have been visible with a wig that would have likely covered it, left it feeling slightly unfinished. Meanwhile, the Guardians of the Galaxy helm that Grace presented looked worn, as if the paint was peeling off of metal and had seen numerous run ins and battles, and even had goggles as eye pieces for her to see out of. The helm that Fred presented that was inspired by Star Trek was multi-functional, with a flashlight that slid into a compartment on the side, although he couldn’t actually see out of it and the top of the dome was rather lumpy, even though it was meant to look like metal. Finally, the helm that Xavier crafted that was inspired by Star Wars, looked aged and battle worn, with a personal touch of having his name spelled out in one of the alphabets found in the extended universe.
While Alicia was unfortunately eliminated after the first round , the others went on to craft full costumes (in just 16 hours!) that went with their helms from the previous challenge, with the added twist of having to use a jet pack-like piece incorporated onto it somewhere. Grace did a full armor set that once again looked like rusted, chipped and aged metal, although it felt as though some of the proportions for the pieces were a bit large for her small frame, and her hair seemed a bit too tangled in the armor, which could become a hindrance when in battle, or even just walking around a convention in the costume when trying to pose for photos. For her jet pack piece, she turned it into a large gun, suitable of a bounty hunter from the Guardians universe. Fred decided to not use the helm he had crafted in the first challenge, and built an interesting suit of cyborg style armor, with a prosthetic metal piece on his head. The armor itself was understandably large, since his back story was that he was injured in an assassination attempt, and a team of surgeons had to rush to save his life. Regardless, it still felt like some parts were once again a little large for his frame (mostly the boots). For his incorporated piece, Fred used his parts to create a large back piece, which he then unfortunately covered with a large cape, obscuring it from immediate sight. Finally, Xavier unveiled his Star Wars inspired crime lord costume, complete with a weapon not often depicted in the films. With armor made entirely out of foam and painted to look like damaged metal, his costume and weapon both looked as if he had stepped off the set of the latest Star Wars movie. In the end, the three contestants who were able to finish their costumes were all impressive, but the transformation that wowed the judges the most was that of Xavier. He went from being a somewhat soft spoken man to a swaggering crime lord on the edge of the galaxy, with a powerful weapon and armor to match.